It’s that time of year again. February has come around and with it, the nationally observed ‘Black History Month’. Started in 1926, its aim is supposedly to educate Americans on the history of the African diaspora. It happens every year and every year I ask myself: Why are we still dividing ourselves?
It is easy to be politically correct and accept Black History Month for what it is. In truth, race is such a touchy subject (especially in academia) that often times any attempt to discuss the subject honestly is met with derision and accusations of racism. It’s enough to cut off any debate of the subject and discourage people from voicing their opinions. But these assumptions we are making need to be challenged. We need to look at where we want to go as a country and whether or not racially charged events like Black History Month are working towards that goal.
America (rightly) has an underlying guilt for its mistreatment of African-Americans in the past and jumps at every opportunity to show how open and accepting it has become. But what does Black History Month really serve to do? In my mind, it deepens the divides by separating one ethnic group from another. This is not the 1960s. A new generation is coming into adulthood where such abominations as Jim Crow laws and segregation are a page in the history book. The recent election of Barack Obama is a testament to how far we have come as a country. Our generation has the opportunity to take it a step further and begin the post-racial era. Black History Month undermines this progress by reminding everyone of their differences and underscoring our divisions.
The time is coming for Americans to move past racial divisions and into the color-blind society that Rev. King advocated for. A society where race is a non-factor and non-issue. This means no more singling out races and designating them a month. This means not assuming the African-Americans cannot get into school on their own merits. These policies, while perhaps stemming from good intentions, are counter-productive, condescending, and antithetical to the Civil Rights Movement.
Martin Luther King hit the nail on the head when he said that people should be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. We need to forget the (insert division here)-American and just become American. This is work Rev. King would have approved of.